Friday, November 21, 2008

Unwarranted Violence

Henry Blake: Pierce….

Hawkeye Pierce: What is it? What?

Blake: I wouldn't try to leave camp.

Hawkeye: Wha -- I'm under arrest?

Blake: I didn't say that. You're restricted.

Hawkeye: That means I’m under arrest.

Blake: Not at all, you're only restricted up to the point where, er – where, er -- you're under arrest.

Hawkeye: Henry, what's happened to you? Did you sneak off behind our backs and enlist? You're regular Army now!

Blake: Sit down Pierce, that's an order!

Hawkeye: You're forcing me to stand.

Blake: Please.

Hawkeye: That's an order I can take.

A key exchange between Lt. Col. Henry Blake and B.F. “Hawkeye” Pierce, from the M*A*S*H episode “For the Good of the Outfit.”

Government, as we must never forget, is force. And as Simone Weil so memorably observed, force is that mysterious influence “that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.”

Every government function, no matter how mundane or apparently harmless, carries with it the implied (and often overt) use of lethal force against those who do not submit. Stefan Molyneux perceptively describes this as the principle of the “Gun in the room”: Whenever anybody refers to the supposed virtue of a given government undertaking, Molyneux sagely observes, the central question is not whether the end is desirable, but rather “whether I am allowed to disagree with you without getting shot.”

Not every government functionary carries a gun and a license to kill other human beings. But every government functionary collaborates closely with those who are thus equipped to compel the rest of us to submit. The people in question are readily identifiable by the blue, brown, or black clothing they wear, which is usually accessorized with a conspicuous piece of chintzy costume jewelry called a “badge.”

At some point or another, it becomes obvious to everyone save those hopelessly in the thrall of official propaganda that the central purpose of law enforcement bodies is not to protect private property*, but rather to extract revenue for the State.

Granted, police agencies are advertised as a way of defending private property from the depredations of private criminals, and many individual police officers have carried out that function with courage and compassion. But that is not the central institutional purpose of such entities; it is an ancillary function that provides some limited benefits to society. Besides, as Albert Jay Nock observed, government isn’t interested in punishing or preventing crime, but rather in establishing and preserving a criminal monopoly.

The order of priorities that government law enforcement today can be appreciated in this contrast:

Under existing judicial precedents, a police officer cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for failing to come to the aid of an individual citizen whose person and property are under criminal attack. However, police agencies across the country routinely discipline police officers who fail to fill their quota of traffic citations.

This may at first glance seem to be a spurious comparison. But consider it in light of the principle of opportunity cost as applied to the time budget of the typical patrol officer: Should he organize his time in such a way that he can be available to help a victim of violent crime, or in the best way to take advantage of “hot spots” for traffic violators, thereby making his quota and enhancing his prospects for lucrative overtime?

A given officer can be in only one place at a given time, after all, and each hour spent trolling for inattentive drivers represents an hour taken away from the task of “serving and protecting” the local population.

Here in Payette, Idaho (population circa 7,000), the local police force has not one or two but no fewer than three undercover, unmarked cars (recognizable from some angles by the antenna cluster at the back) that apparently circulate through the town in search of traffic violations. One of them can be seen every morning making circuits through a local “hot spot”: It’s a section of a business route branching off I-95 where the speed limit suddenly dips from 35 MPH to 25 MPH for several blocks.

This kind of ticketing-by-quota – the existence of which is indisputable, the anguished denials from police officials to the contrary notwithstanding -- isn’t “law enforcement”; it’s revenue enhancement. And it’s increasingly common as the economic implosion accelerates and governments at the municipal and county levels are starved for tax revenue.

“When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” observes Michael Reaves, a police chief in Utica, Michigan. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.”

The Detroit News article containing Reaves’ lament was entitled “Traffic fines help fill city coffers: Officials increasingly target drivers to bolster budgets.” The piece, the first in a two-part expose, reported that “Court and police records from 2002-2007 [show that] many Metro Detroit police departments have drastically increased the number of moving violations issued in what some people say is an effort to offset budget shortfalls caused by the sluggish economy.”

One former Detroit-area police officer summarizes: “A portion of the tickets our officers write helps pay their salaries, but the rest is profit for the city. `Profit’ may not be the right word to use in government, but that’s pretty much what it is.”

No, “profit” – an term describing material gain honorably earned through mutually beneficial commerce – is not the correct word. “Plunder” is.

Detroit and its environs are in the throes of a severe and deepening depression, and suffering a predictable increase in property crimes and violent assaults. And yet, as the perspicuous Karen DeCoster (herself a Detroit native) points out, “the cops do nothing to prevent the scores of home robberies, car thefts, and assorted property crimes because they are too busy sitting in 'hot spots' that are good for catching the more dangerous types, like speeders and drivers who don't come to a complete stop at a stop sign in an empty intersection.”

That’s opportunity cost at work. And this underscores, once again, the true priorities that define police “work”: Revenue collection for the government uber alles, protection for the governed … sometimes.

The embodiment of the Detroit-area police plunderbund is Officer David Kanapsky, the champion pen-slinger for the Warren Police Department. During 2007, the Warren PD issued 54,100 traffic tickets – an increase of 20 percent over the previous year’s total of 44,809.

Kanapsky, a physically unimpressive wad of aging cholesterol who couldn’t chase down a robber or wrestle an assailant to the ground without risking an immediate coronary infarct, wrote ten percent of Warren’s citations during 2007.

Most of them were issued at Kanapsky’s favorite fishing hole, an intersection with a stop sign at which some drivers would make a “rolling stop.”

But then again, it doesn’t really matter whether drivers come to a full stop, since Kanapsky – by virtue of the costume he wears to what he calls “work” -- enjoys the benefit of the doubt when tickets are contested in court.

And since Kanapsky is paid (note carefully: not “earns,” but “is paid”) overtime simply for appearing in court, he actually has a perverse incentive for issuing citations he knows will be challenged. Last year he was given $21,562 in overtime simply for dragging his tax-engorged corpus into court to wheeze out his allegations before a judge.

Each of those contested tickets was a case of Kanapsky’s word against that of his victim – the word of a self-interested tax-feeder against that of a productive citizen. Naturally, the judge invariably takes the side of his comrade in the tax-feeding class. So Kanapsky is let free to grow another subsidized chin and prey on other innocent people; meanwhile, those who dared object to Kanapsky’s predations are out the price of a ticket and the valuable time spent in the useless, infuriating, self-abasing attempt to contest it in court.

Any citizen is free to pursue that disagreement further, at his own time and expense, in the same system that depends on the support of armed predators like Kanapsky. However, if that citizen simply shrugs his shoulders and says, in effect, “You’ve proven nothing, and I have no intention of surrendering my legitimately earned money on the word of a self-interested thug,” he’ll eventually learn that he can’t persist in his disagreement without getting shot.

It’s important to recognize that many police officers are nauseated by the use to which they are put by the governments that hired them.

"The people we count on to support us and help us when we're on the road are the ones who end up paying the bills, and they're ticked off about it,” observes Trenton, Michigan Police Sgt. Richard Lyons. "We might was well just go door-to-door and tell people, 'Slide us $100 now, since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.' You can't blame people for getting upset. No politician wants to be the one to raise taxes, but if the community needs more money they should go ahead and raise taxes. At least that's more honorable than chasing down cars for doing five miles over the speed limit."

Of course, no politician wants to raise taxes overtly, and with property values and retail earnings sharply declining, property and sales taxes are being choked off. This is why police nation-wide are increasingly being deployed as armed revenue farmers – and why the already lengthy lines outside your local traffic court get longer every week.

Roadside police holdups aren’t the only creative means of illicit revenue extraction being employed by local governments; “code enforcement” citations are likewise proliferating, often in the name of maintaining property values amid the housing collapse. Given the dimensions of the housing bust, this is a bit like swimming against the tidal pull of Charybdis. But the intent here, once again, is not to aid homeowners, but rather to contrive new opportunities for revenue collection.

This brings us to the case of Ian Bernard (also known as “Ian Freeman”) of Keene, New Hampshire. Last summer, Freeman received a citation – delivered, as it turns out, by a retired police officer who is “working” part-time as an ordinance officer, while drawing a tax-provided pension – for allowing the occupants of a rental property he owns to store a couch in its front yard.

Mr. Freeman, recall, owns the rental property. No respectable person complained about the couch; the source of the complaint was another city official. Quite properly perceiving this to be a matter of property rights, Freeman refused to pay the citation. In early November Bernard wound up in District Court before a judge antagonistic to Mr. Bernard’s beliefs, which are well-known in Keene.

In the mistaken belief that he would make a point of some kind, the judge arranged for a little demonstration during Freeman’s hearing: Knowing that Freeman and other local freedom activists reject the stilted formality of court hearings, the judge summoned several Bailiffs to the courtroom and instructed them to be ready to arrest Freeman or any of his associates who failed to display the expected deference by standing when the judge sashayed into the room, and sitting promptly when instructed to.

Like Hawkeye Pierce, Freeman and his friends live by the axiom that someone who “orders” them to sit down is forcing them to stand, and vice-versa. This is an entirely commendable thing.

So it was that the judge ordered that Freeman be arrested for contempt for standing a barely perceptible fraction of a second longer than the judge thought proper. A special closed trial was then held, at which Freeman received a sentence of 93 days in jail – three days refusing to pay the original fine, and a total of 90 days for contempt.

Once again: This individual, who did nothing to harm anybody, will spend more than three months in jail for asserting control over his own legally acquired property, and refusing to offer slavish obedience to some fellow with a Liberace complex.

It could have been worse.

Oh, my, yes: In a time when armed tax harvesters consider it their right and duty to subject people to electroshock torture at the first sign of resistance, it can always get much worse.

Just two days ago (Wednesday, November 19), Houston resident Marvin Driver, the father of Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, was reportedly beaten bloody and unconscious by a pair of Houston’s Finest who had arrested him because of outstanding traffic tickets.

Marvin Driver, 56, was “unresponsive” when taken to jail. Shuttled to a local hospital, he underwent treated for a cerebral hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma. Left speechless by the assault, Driver scribbled some details about the assault. He was arrested outside his mother’s home; his brother Winston, who witnessed the arrest, says that one of the officers threatened him, ordering him to get back in the house. As the police drove away, Winston called 911.

The next thing the family knew, Marvin was in the hospital. He claims to have been dragged behind a gas station and beaten by the police, who also tried to shove something down his throat. At one point, Marvin recalled, one of the assailants tauntingly told him he was “going to see Jesus.”

Mr. Driver’s injuries – which included abdominal bruises from being kneed to the stomach – were consistent with his story.

While it was clear that Driver came to serious harm while in police custody, the department’s initial reaction was that it couldn’t account for or comment about Driver’s condition until after a lengthy inquiry. However, the force quickly reassigned three officers -- Bacilio Guzman, Gilberto Cruz and M. Marin – believed to have been involved in the assault.

Officers Cruz and Guzman both became sworn police officers within the last 18 months. Mr. Driver has said that the beating he endured was less painful to him than the fact that he had known one of the assailants in the neighborhood before he grew up to be a police officer. They had been on friendly terms until one of them was given the assignment to collect revenue for the government, and the power to turn his erstwhile friends into corpses.

Gratuitous Green Bay Packers Video Extra

Since the essay above, which ended on an exceptionally grim note, made passing reference to Da Packers, I thought it might be appropriate to end the week with the following video clip.Be charitable; this was my first attempt at doing a video montage. (My ten-year-old son William Wallace had to walk me through the program.) Stay with it through the last frame and you'll see my daughter Sophia trying on her brother Isaiah's football gear. And be sure to catch the end credits, too.


*The concept of property, of course, begins with one's physical being.

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!


liberranter said...

It’s important to recognize that many police officers are nauseated by the use to which they are put by the governments that hired them.

Will, I'm afraid I must take issue with your use of the word "many" in the above sentence. Make that "a very few", or "many ex-". As I've stated in other forums on too many occasions to count, if a truly significant number of police officers were really disgusted enough by their employment as collection sharks for the State rather than as "protectors of the public", there would be a massive movement by said officers seeking change from the status quo, a movement that would become too large and too vocal to ignore. The fact that we hear of no such movement on even a local, let alone national level tells us only one thing: that the average cop is only too happy to serve as an enforcer for the Powers-That-Be, in the same way that Sicilian mafiosi shake down the local peasantry for "protection."

Why does this continue? Here are three reasons I can cite right away:

1) The "Blue Wall", like the Ruling Elite it serves, demands absolute uniformity of thought and blind obedience to higher authority, and thus does not tolerate dissent. Those who swim against the tide are branded as "rats", "snitches", or "traitors" by their fellows in blue and as "troublemakers", "misfits", or "unsuitable for service" by their superiors. Dissidents within the ranks face physical violence, ostracism, or deliberate endangerment in the field at the hands of their fellow officers, and administrative discipline, criminal charges, or even frame-up by their superiors. For this reason NO cop who wants to retain a career in "law enforcement" steps out of line or strays from the game.

2) The average cop, to put it politely, lacks the intelligence, talent, focus, or motivation to find or retain gainful employment in the productive private sector. For this reason, keeping the badge means everything and keeping it at any cost is justified.

3) Related to 1 and 2 above, the average cop sees "collection duty" as an opportunity to skim a little cream off the top or, failing that, an opportunity to find other means of shaking down citizens for extra loot, be they law-abiding motorists or gang-banging drug dealers.

BTW, Sergeant Lyons of the Trenton, Michigan PD had better watch out. If he continues to express too much sympathy for the taxpayers whose stolen money enriches his bosses and whose lives and property he believes it is his duty to protect, he'll find himself joining Michigan's growing hordes of unemployed, probably with a bogus criminal charge on his record.

Anonymous said...


your son has skillz. however....



Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, Mr. Grigg. I like it when you steer more toward the realm of principles and ideas and away from describing "things" and "events." Sound theory always precedes sound practice.

This world is full of statists and lawyer wonks who consider justice a game: a game that you win by doing justice itself, but by binding the other person with words written by some statist judge 120 years ago. It's like a big game of Dungeons and Dragons for these so-called adults: "I cast my spell of binding: Schmoe vs. Schmuck (1867). Huzzah! Justice is done because I found, like, where this one guy said this one thing, and everyone else was like, 'yeah!' So he must have been right."

Such irrational men love to "do the thing right," not "do the right thing."

The statist libertarians refuse to see the truth: the initiation of aggression is wrong. And it it itself an initiation of aggression to help put someone in power who initiates aggression against other people.

As Edmund Burke wisely said, before he turned his back on reason and turned into a statist:

"To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary ...

In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!"

Edmund Burke, you were a traitor to reason. Statists: provide some form of defense of your blatant support initiation of aggression. Or better yet, acknowledge, with sane people like Joe Sobran, that the State, with its ability to tax and conscript, can and has caused more violence, death and destruction than any individual, group, or corporation could ever possibly cause, and that by virtue of this fact, it is insane to support the continued existence of the thing.

My allegiance belongs to God, not to any armed gang of damnable thugs who claim a monopoly of violence over a certain geographic area. God does not need any votes or support in order to stay in existence. The State does. Support God. Withdraw your support from the very existence and foundation of the State. Get as many others as you can to join you. Perhaps, one day, we may get to watch that damnable violent institution of Satan's design finally crumble to the ground.


Slavery existed since the beginning of time. Taking sex slaves of women and children during wartime was just something everyone did. ("If you don't like the way we do things here, leave," they doubtless told anyone who questioned the practice.) Finally, thousands of years later, men have scratched their way to some crude and rudimentary understanding of at least one small facet of the dignity of God-created mankind: that one man may not own another man. The classic idea of slavery is now scorned by the people of all civilized countries. Today, we pay 50 per cent, fully half, of our incomes to leeches with guns who will imprison us if we do not submit to their demand to eat out of our substance.

Perhaps there is a chance that the State, our modern slavery, will also be abolished by all civilized peoples. But then again, I read somewhere, and I do not know where . . . "Christ will return to earth only when men finally realize that they are utterly and totally incapable of governing themselves."

In the Peace of Christ,

-Sans Authoritas

Anonymous said...

If we, the people of this country had any love for liberty, that judge would be tarred and feathered. That's what many of the founding generation would have thought proper.

Uncle Fester said...

Just an FYI, Ian served 3 days of his 93 day sentence and the rest was suspended after a lot of pressure was put on the judge and other city bureaucrats by Ian's supporters in the liberty movement.

Anonymous said...

"Here in Payette, Idaho (population circa 7,000), the local police force has not one or two but no fewer than three undercover, unmarked cars (recognizable from some angles by the antenna cluster at the back) that apparently circulate through the town in search of traffic violations."

A couple of months ago, I saw two motorcycle officers who were engaged in revenue procurement, along with no fewer than *four* others who had yet to find victims. All six, at one time, within a distance of one city block from the door of the post office.

In the five years that I have lived in Nampa, I have been through downtown a minimum of five days a week at all different hours of the day, and have never seen anybody (aside from the police) driving more than maybe 5mph or so over the posted limit.

So what's with all the cops & radar guns?

I suppose it's easier work and generates more money for the city than having those cops working at catching the creeps who spray graffiti on garages in the alleys less than 1/2 mile from the police station.

Anonymous said...

Will -- Go PACK GO! Everyone knows there still the best in the NFC North. What are you playing these days?


It's like a big game of Dungeons and Dragons for these so-called adults: "I cast my spell of binding: Schmoe vs. Schmuck (1867). Huzzah!

William N. Grigg said...

Yes, the Dungeons and Dragons comment was golden, wasn't it?:-)

The legal profession, I've often believed, was created so that nebbishes and nerdlings could assert power over other people through their intricate, detailed mastery of things that make little sense. Sort of like ... well, Dungeons and Dragons, yeah.

The Pack is still a great team, but I sure miss Reggie. When we lived in Wisconsin, I was occasionally mistaken for Marco Rivera, which was cool. :-)

As to what I'm playing these days ... well, very little. I divested myself of gear when we moved to Idaho.

A while ago I bought a Godin electric from a friend, and a tiny Micro Cube modeling amp. That's really cool little piece of technology: It gives me several really nice tones to choose from, including two different Marshall settings (one is a "British" version that sounds like a non-master volume stack, and the other is a classic, late '70s tone) and even a Mesa Rectifier simulation.

When I have some spare time (ha!) I noodle around for therapeutic purposes.

I'm teaching William Wallace "Iron Man" and "Heartbreaker" (ah, the classics); we should be posting the results on YouTube fairly soon. And I'm trying to find the appropriate backing track so I can post a video of myself playing Satriani's "Crushing Day"; hopefully we'll get these up early next year.

I know things are going to hell in a Honda, but it's fun to do something pointless and cathartic every once in a while.

Broken said...

Why does it seem, Will, this article gives such powerful support for my oft-derided assertion mankind is designed to live solely in a tribal setting? When what serves as enforcement of the common good can be isolated from the common life, it makes the enforcers an enemy tribe. The only moral authority for employing leverage against another arises from equally sharing the cost of failure; not in the abstract, but in reality. For all the flaws of tribal lifestyle, there truly is nothing better possible after the Fall.

Neil Schipper said...

First time here. Very high quality of writing. I find much merit in your assessments of the pitfalls of statist policing.

I favour a strategy of larger community involvement in policing. In one possible scheme, basic law enforcement training might be an option in a national service program.

This would create a large pool of potential part-timers. Some kind of renumeration -- perhaps competitive hourly pay, tax credits, access to preferred mortgage rates, etc -- would be in effect as incentives for duty, but subject to a ceiling on the number of hours/week per person.

Crudely (and subject to refinement with experience) the target might be to have 50% of a community's policing manpower needs fulfilled in this manner. It ought to make us all feel more secure knowing that everyday taxpaying joes -- accountants and cooks and plumbers and crime reporters -- with skills beefed up by occasional courses, would form part of the backbone of the policing community. (It might also raise the average IQ.) This dense mesh of social connectedness between the those who police and the policed could take out a big chunk of the us vs them mentality. Indeed for the full-time pros, advancement up the ranks would require the ability to motivate and earn confidence from your part-time pool.

Unabashedly, this is social engineering -- and I suspect that in consultation with your sacred texts, you would call this "against nature".

Which brings me to a few other comments... zooming out from the issues in this specific article:

1. Libertarian ideology is in the end another ideology. It is based on an idealized notion of economic man, much like Marxism is. Both are being supplanted by the more nuanced understandings of neuro-economics, which is empirical, is tied to neuro-biology, and will be increasingly refined as its ability to make successful predictions increases. Science has a way of eventually getting things right, the wishful loyalties of both its adherents and its critics notwithstanding.

2. I've checked and checked again: the probabilty of the existence of any particular supernatural deity is exceedingly close to zero. I'm not one to go out of my way to tell this to people, especially to good simple folk, but you're very smart so I don't mind bringing it to your attention.

3. Satriani? Satriani? Oh, come on! You really risk me not ever coming back here. Stunning virtuosity to be sure, and just as certainly, together with all the other practitioners of shred, completely forgettable.

May we both live to the age of 200 and discover that civilization will not only persist, but flourish, and late 20th century musical art will be defined by the contributions (particularly recordings from 1990 onward) of the Robert Cray Band.

William N. Grigg said...

First of all, Mr. Schipper, I bid you welcome, and offer thanks for your kind, thoughtful, and well-presented contribution!

Secondly, let me assure you that I understand that there's much more in heaven and earth than mere shredding (or, as the much-missed Frank Zappa put it, filling the air with a dense cloud of hyper-educated gnat-notes).

Satriani has, thankfully, moved out of that realm and has become a much more interesting player. That being said, I have to admit that Robert Cray is a complete artist in a way the estimable Mr. Satriani can only imagine. (Satch is making progress, though, as he ditches mere fretboard pedantry in favor of a rootsier, bluesier approach.)

Perhaps the reason I'm playing a selection by Satriani rather than Cray is that the former would be a recital, while performing the latter would require something only Cray possesses and I couldn't fake.

Back in '85 he came to a little club in Logan, Utah and put on two shows. His opening act was a local shred-rock band that specialized in emitting clouds of gnat-notes.
They played millions of notes that night, and not a single one was remembered five minutes later.

After they finished their sets, Cray would come out with his Strat, his Heritage 50-watt amp, and his small ensemble -- and put out a groove that yanked people from their seats and left many of us with our jaws on the floor. He played relatively few notes that night, but every one of them was etched indelibly in the audience's memory.

Neuro-economics/neuro-biology is a subject about which I know scandalously little. I first read about it, or a primitive precursor, back in the late 1980s, in reaction to the controversy kicked up by Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" foolishness.

It strikes me as very intriguing, but like other similar schools of thought it does seem to assume that certain people enjoy a transcendent understanding that many of use would be hard-pressed to distinguish from metaphysics.

While on the subject of things the existence of which is exceedingly close to zero, I'm constrained to ask: What is the possibility of matter attaining self-awareness, to the point that a particular aggregation of matter can discern the creative superiority of a Robert Cray to that of a Joseph Satriani?

The capacity of each of us to make distinctive creative contributions to the universe is part of what makes the individual sacred. This isn't something Marxism can account for.

There are some strains of libertarianism that seek to reduce the individual to a set of economic indices, just as Orthodox Marxism relegates the individual to a foreordained role in history's class struggle. My perspective is based on an appreciation of the sanctity of the human individual as a unique and irreplaceable creation.

I suspect that somebody who recognizes the "soul" in Robert Cray's mastery of the fretboard, and finds that quality lacking in Satriani's use of the same instrument and (for the most part) the same modified pentatonic scale, should understand, at some level, why I am so adamant about protecting the individual from the designs of social engineers.

Neil Schipper said...

Hi. Wow, quick response.

"emitting clouds of gnat-notes" - Nice metaphor; consider it stolen.

"something only Cray possesses and I couldn't fake"

But that's part of the point: the fight to not surrender to the temptation to fake, but rather to find the zone that is, for instance, uniquely Will Griggs', where every note matters to you.

Cray's mastery of the fretboard by "objective" standards is a small part of the artistry (not only in the sense of technique as cleanliness and speed, but also in the sense of melody and harmony -- imagine how weird a jam between Cray and someone like Pass or Django would be; OTOH, a Ford or a Carlton have such high levels of craft that they could fairly readily "retool" to make such collaborations at least plausible).

That artistry of RC is to do with choosing a notion of fineness and elevating it above the other aspirations, like making music that's "original" or "interesting".

In less intellectual terms, a big part of what's so striking about RCB recordings is the trust among the players. Steely Dan without the stench of smartypants calculation (sounds harsh I know, and DGMW, I am still awed by some SD work).

As to neuro-economics, consider reading The Social Atom by Mark Buchanan for a layman's intro (which is about all I can handle). Some prominent names in the field are Tversky, Kahnemann, Thaler and Sunstein.

The underlying "metaphysics" is that there are discernable patterns that people -- with all their uniqueness and complexity -- tend to follow in their behaviour and choices. These patterns matter in how you think about social and economic policy. It's a young field, as is neuro-science itself, but it seems to be shaking up economics in a good way. It has made models that conform to reality surprisingly well.

On self-awareness: tough nut for sure. But here's a story.

I arrived at your blog because I was browsing at the agitator (also new to me) which I got to from some "futility and destructiveness of the war on drugs" article, and enjoyed an interesting post about successful people who used or use marijuana. Digging further there, I came upon an amusement, "Name the five guiltiest, most embarrasing pleasures on your iPod", and flitting through the responses, I found yours, and I liked your voice, stuff about Gino Vanelli and the Osmonds.

(I'm actually going somewhere with this.) You also said good things about a band called Queensryche. To me, they're just a name, so I thought, give 'em a listen. Called up youtube, listened to two apparently big numbers for them, and.. nope, it would take some extremely unlikely mental reconfigurations for me to begin to have anything like genuine affection for that music.

OK, here's the thing. If you, a nonspecialist like me, pay attention to what neuroscience is telling us -- and almost every week there are a few articles in the mainstream of pop science media to this effect -- it is becoming increasingly undeniable that in theory, a neural intervention -- a pill, an injection, a surgery, a helmet of some kind that generated just the right electromagnetic fields, whatever -- could be performed on me that would make me have complete and unadorned love of Queensryche. Or you a homosexual. Or me a homosexual who likes to cook. Or... OK, you get it..

It can be very tough to start to see one's self as "mere" biochemical machinery, but I see no plausible alternative.

I won't stop using the word "soul" to talk about some things, but that proves nothing; when we apes don't understand stuff, we make stuff up, and as per the famous quote by Goebbels on propaganda, through repetition we start believing the inventions.

To "anonymous" who spoke of the "big game of Dungeons and Dragons" and said: Such irrational men love to "do the thing right," not "do the right thing."

First, nice. But I wouldn't call them irrational; insufficiently rational, maybe. They are acting consistently with the preservation of their place in their hive. It's something not 1 in 100 of us usually fail to do.

More importantly, stop being anonymous, OK? I decided a while back that I would use my real name everywhere I post; and that when posting I would bear in mind that my words might in future be read by my kids, potential employers, etc. It's actually liberating. There's less of an onus to effortfully demonstrate prowess (especially in threads that are going nowhere), and more of one to be open to making friends and collaborators. And it goes some way towards making the internet more like what it was promised to be, albeit by techno-futurist dickheads.

Finally, to both you and Will: would you really oppose my socially engineered policing scheme? What would you prefer?

Anonymous said...


Here's an idea that would reduce the number of police, atrocities committed by police, and generally decrease the odious nature of a coercively-funded police force. It's a revolutionary idea to some, unfortunately: let the title "crime" only be applied to physical actions that actually have a victim who is wronged through force, fraud or coercion. When you believe you have the right to punish victimless acts, or "violating the rights of society," (whatever that is,) you'll find that a certain type of person is drawn to enforcing such crimes. He is not a good kind of person. This kind of person loves exercising special, monopoly power over others simply because he can do so, and because he can do so with the approval of others, who are in awe of his noble acts of "protecting society" from dangerous people such as a pothead with a case of the terminal chuckles, someone who wants to manufacture his own alcohol, someone who wants to build a home without the blessing of the State, or someone who chooses to peacably carry a self-defense weapon without a state-issued permission slip.

One key question: is your proposed "national service program" voluntary, or is it forced upon people at gunpoint?

As for your statement about science having a tendency to "get things right . . ." You seem to be confusing two different sciences here. The physical sciences can be simply defined as the methodical act of discovering and describing physical phenomena. This is all very well. But, when you say science "gets things right," you are bringing in an entirely different field of science: ethics. Physical science tells us what we can do, and how we can achieve an end. It can never tell us what we ought to do. Not even sociology or psychology can unilaterally tell us what we ought to do.

"Right," when referring to human interactions, refers to the moral realm. Morality is not a physical entity. It is not comprised of a few synapses firing in a particular sequence.

As far as I can see, if there is no God, and there is no immaterial animating principle that makes every individual what it is, makes it responsible for its own actions, and makes it not any other thing, there is no reason for me to not do anything I want to anyone else, so long as I either A) have more power than the other physical entity, or B) do not get caught by any other physical entity.

Who is to say that I "should not" play Dr. Mengele and join a pair of kittens by their internal organs, then stomp them both soundly, and post the video on You Tube, if nobody can stop me? Who is to say that I "should not" play a game of toddler-skull croquet, so long as I never get caught? Outrageous proposals to any sane person, clearly. But in all reason, why should I not do these things, if through the wonders and blessings of science, I can do them? "Science be praised!"

Some of us simple people believe in an all-powerful entity that we call God, yes. We do not, however, believe in his existence because it is or is not provable by the physical sciences. We believe for the same reason we laugh at a joke: what makes a joke funny? I can juxtapose two contrary and simultaneously-held ideas all day long, and no one may laugh at it. But if I fail to zip up my fly, someone may laugh: not because they see and understand all the principles that underlie the notion of humor, but because they see it as funny. We believe in the existence of God because we believe in the existence of God. Like the same reason many people love, as Fulton Sheen wrote: "Just because." There are certainly reasons why one may love another person, but one doesn't need them, does one?

To me, the idea of morality without God is entirely laughable. As an aquaintance pointed out to me, atheists must believe, like Marx, that a man is nothing but a clump of matter that happens to manipulate other clumps of matter. If we're nothing but matter, morality does not exist. There is no "right" or "wrong," there is only "can" and "can not." In such a world, we have nobody to which we are ultimately accountable, even if our actions could be imputed to us. (Mere matter is simply not responsible for its actions!) We can steal, kill, rape, or give, save and preserve, and we'll all end up in the same place when we croak. In such a world, the moral value of an act is based upon what you and you alone value (and trifling details such as the possibility that another clump of matter might manipulate you out of existence if you try to manipulate it in a way that does not cause its synapses to fire in a in a manner that is pleasing to it.)

In a world of pure matter, what is this thing called "free will?" We are matter: we cannot choose anything, and hence, we cannot be responsible for anything.

But we all live in a world that has prisons and free society, condemnation and praise. It is impossible for an atheist to take his materialism to its full logical conclusions, and all of the ramifications thereof. So they live as though they really believe in the existence of the immaterial individuating animating principle (the soul,) free will and final judgment, all the while denying the existence of these things with mere words that they speak.

-Sans Authoritas

William N. Grigg said...

Neil, you've laid out what could be a multi-course dinner for discussion, and to my frustration I have time only to nibble at a few hors d'oeuvres.

My greatest frustration as a musician has been my inability to find a really distinctive voice.

Part of that was because my role models as an aspiring musician were Larry Carlton, Steve Lukather, Dennis Budimir, and the rotating "Smarty-Pants" string-slingers who played on Steely Dan albums.

I wanted to be a session musician, and actually did a little of that kind of work when I was in my early 20s. So I became a decent sight-reader and a very good mimic.

Asked on one occasion to describe my "style," I said something to the effect that in one of my typical solos, one could hear this bit I nicked from Lukather, and that bit I horked from, say, Gary Moore or Michael Schenker -- and that the ineptly performed interstitial between those two recited licks would be Will Grigg's distinctive contribution.

That being said, in my last band (a power trio), there would be moments of transcendent collaboration in which we each of us would create something uniquely his, and the product of our instinctive collaboration would be priceless, if tragically ephemeral. (For some reason, moments of that kind only happened when we were performing at the local bowling alley.:-))

I genuinely appreciate your recommendation of Mark Buchanan's book, which I intend to track down quite soon.

Anonymous said...

As for "stopping being anonymous?" Absolutely. I will stop as soon as the death threats I have received were never made.

Some people don't particularly like it when you undermine their core beliefs with logic. Statists, in particular. As statists, their first reaction to anything that threatens their world view is "SMASH!" Especially when it comes to veterans, who were thoroughly trained in the Statist art of crushing, maiming, destroying and killing (under the pretense and guise of "protecting," of course.)

Truth poses a serious danger to falsehood. Falsehood's only weapon is violence, while truth's only weapon is convincing.

I think this might be one of the reasons Publius remained anonymous.

-Sans Authoritas

Anonymous said...

Sans Authoritas, well said.

If man is relegated to live under the reductionist worldview of scientism, than Stalin wasn't responsible for his democidal edicts; he was just naturally acting out what his 'brain squirt' forced him to do. He had no choice, so why hold him or anyone else morally accountable for any activity that are determined solely by a synapse?

Again, Dostoyevsky was right. "If God does not exist, then everything is permitted."

In 'Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology', published by Oxford University Press, the brilliant atheist philosopher Quentin Smith admitted to the equally brilliant theist philosopher William Lane Craig that "The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing...We should instead acknowledge our foundation in Nothingness and feel awe at the marvellous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being."
-page 135

So there you have it. The universe in all it's incredible, irreducible, and specified complexities came into existence by something less than the eraser tip on your pencil! For at least your eraser IS something, but according to one of the West's most brilliant atheists, Nothingness is the magical pixie dust that brought into existence all that there is, the something which exists, i.e. the universe, human beings, complex DNA, RNA etc.
And atheists call us irrational!

The incredibly vast and huge universe is still finite, and it had a beginning, as even admitted by Dr. Smith.

Something with a beginning requires something else independent of itself to cause it's existence. The late brilliant atheist and mathematician Bertrand Russell and the late existentialist atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre also acknowledged the law of causality and denied self causality.

All natural causes for the beginning of the universe are exhausted since all that exists materially is contained within our natural universe, which, again, Dr. Smith admits had a beginning. Hence the Cause must be super-natural and infinite, i.e. beyond the natural universe and Uncaused, for something finite to exist now there had to be a Something else to cause the finite something's existence. God is that transnatural Something else Who Himself is not caused, but is Uncaused. Something infinite has to exist for that finite something else to exist at all.

What was that about simple folk?

Neil Schipper said...

Anonymous, as to your post before last, I really wasn't seeking out this kind of god and morality conversation today! I'll only briefly say that much about morality has been explained by evolutionary biology to my satisfaction. This is not a claim about ought -- it's claim about is. There's just so much that humans do -- from the most vile to the most self-sacrificial and noble, not to mention the mundane exchanging of favours -- that many species of animals, with the cognitive abilities they've evolved, do also. If one keeps one's head solely in political history and philosophy and affairs of state, it's easy to miss that. (It doesn't help that our species' success has squeezed the gorillas, chimps and bonobos into extremely tiny enclaves.)

As for oughts -- the things we say we are for -- well, we've been largely in agreement about these since kindergarten.

Please ponder how plausible is this scenario: little Honduran fishing village in the year 1400, about 150 bodies, mostly kin. Life's been good for a few generations: good fishing, lots of pineapples and mangos, no neighbours nearby or if so, relations with them are good.

Do they eat their babies? Is everyone a psychopathic kitten stomper? If not, why not? Why do they have some enforced codes that limit what individuals can take for themselves, maybe codes about leaving the other guy's daughter alone until there's some kind of an agreement, or about who has the final say in disputes about placement of huts. How to account for this in the absence of exposure to the Abrahamic deity?

Well, one thing I grant you is that they most likely had a deity. Probably a whole bunch of them. Not to mention stories of how the world came into existence. Maybe something to do with turtles.

And over at this other fishing village, different time and place, we have drought, diminishing food supply, maybe neighbours edging closer. Hunger, anxiety, fear. How different their actions will be.

And we, the beneficiaries of those who figured out the conversion of fuel into mechanical work, and naval warfare, we with our fine clothes and supermarkets and libraries, will we call their behaviour immoral, evil, and think we are saying something meaningful?

More and more am I convinced that moral vanity approaches greed as a source of our woes.

So, yes, morality is relative. That's NOT the same as saying, anything goes. Following Sam Harris, the vast "space" of possible moralities gets pared down significantly when faced with the need to confer benefits to survival -- benefits like trust, cooperation, anxiety reduction, leveraging the brainpower of females and what not.

That was witlessly without brevity.

As to policing, I'm not sure you really addressed the question. Eliminating silly drug laws will not eliminate the need for policing. I doubt there exist communities with populations numbering higher than a few hundred that don't.

Would my "national service program" be compulsory? I'd certainly want to explore what positive incentives could achieve, but with a complex populous society, it's hard to imagine disincentives (beyond damage to reputation) not coming in to play; so, things like eligibility for public sector employment, higher ed, maybe preferred medical insurance.

On the absence of true free will: well, since the idea is loathsome to you, I'm not sure you can give it a fair hearing. But if you're willing to challenge yourself, check out some modern neuro-psych findings. Like experiments where the machine identifies the decision you're about to make: it determines the choice made by looking at a subsystem before the "you" (that thing that you think is you) is conscious of it. There's more, but, check out the Buchanan; also, Risk by Dan Gardner.

A nice thing (for someone who might make the transition to hard materialism) is that genes, and their interaction with the myriad influences during embryonic development and early infancy -- the sounds and sights and vibrations and meals (all of which translate into biochemical inputs) -- these effects are all so utterly, so staggeringly complex, that who you are as an individual -- what music and ideas and flavours you prefer, what causes annoyance or joy -- still turns out to be (unsurprisingly) pretty darn unique. Just think of a 60 second dust storm -- can anyone predict where each grain will end up? Is the fact that I'm not smart enough to make such predictions really an argument for an "immaterial individuating animating principle"?

Will, our dear host, I'm being rude, aren't I? Thanks for your enjoyable remarks, and I do have some musical ruminations in process, but I'll submit what I've got for now. I'm just not very fast.

Sam said...


excellent post! A great number of folks do not know that the members of the police are earning overtime when they are in court. So of course it is in their interest to give out as many tickets as possible as it gets them out of normal duty and they can sit back and lord it over the people who have no chance in a "my word against their word" situation in court. To make things even sweeter they get overtime.

I found this out a long time ago when I was stopped one night and when I asked the officer what the problem was he said I drove over the "center line". When I informed him that I did no such thing, he told me to "tell my side of the story in court". Needless to say, I had no chance in court and had to pay a fine and court costs.

a few days later I found out that all cops get overtime to be in court..

Will, do you have any idea why Cops are paid overtime to sit in court? it seems logical that these parasites would of course jump to boost their salaries in this thuggish way.

And one more thing I remember when I lived near Boston. Any kind of work being done on any road in our area required that at least one (sometimes 2) Cop be present for safety reasons. Apparently the Union reps for the police got the state to pass a law regarding this and therefore any roadwork of any kind had a cop either sitting in his cruiser or standing by earning a lot of dough. The Boston Globe did a story once where a lot of cops were pulling down over a 100K doing this overtime scam.

Of course the Pols were afraid to make a comment against this else they would be branded as pro-crime etc. etc.

Another acquaintance I had when living in Virginia was a DC cop. And he loved to get into scuffles with any possible perpetrator.. reason being 1) He loved to be able to get some aggression out (in his words) legally and 2) He would often fake an injury and would go on disability and get a few free weeks to go fishing.. I remember he once did a 13 week disability (after he beat up on a drunk and pretended to be hurt in his shoulder) where he used to wear his arm in a sling to pick up his paycheck and then still show up at our softball game to play.

He certainly knew how to game the system to his advantage..

In my opinion, 99% of the cops are just sucking on the teet of the public's taxes.


Anonymous said...


I am against anything that involves coercing the will or any other initiation of violence in order to implement it. That includes taking money from one group, at gunpoint, to give it to another (preferred healthcare.)

Society doesn't need any top-down "engineering." They need an individual-up belief in the truths of what it means to live and thrive as a real human being. And that can't be forced.

Regarding fishing village A: All humans everywhere share the same human nature. We are programmed, by nature, to seek God, as biologists are learning. If, as so many atheists say, "Organized religion is the cause of so many deaths," why would it be considered biologically superior to develop such a trait, considering it is a hindrance to the survival of the species? Why complain about it, if it pares down the number in a species so the rest may survive? (This is what many atheists claim as necessary when they talk about human existence, er, population control.)

Is a certain set of ideas beneficial to peaceful interaction among indivduals on the whole? Who cares? It doesn't answer my question: why should anyone not act any way he wants? You're still talking about practicality here. Why bring deities into a discussion about practicality? My question, which you did not address, was, "Why should they not," not "why do they not?"

Fishing village B: drought, famine, enemy tribes moving in . . . it sounds as though you are intimating there is going to be some violence and stealing on the horizon. You call this "different." It will not be peaceful. But then, if one group of matter with one set of synapse firing sequences wants to manipulate another, who is anyone to say it is "undesirable?" Desires? That indicates an individual will that chooses. Will, as it is understood, cannot be acknowledged (sorry, Mr. Grigg, it's true) in such a mindset.

In the materialist belief system (and it is a belief system, like any other, except for the whole "conforming to reality part," I'm afraid) a piece of malleable clay strapped to a table, being suffocated, having his nails ripped out and testicles fried by another piece of malleable clay, all the while emanating physical noises of a certain frequency . . . it is nothing but an interesting physical phenomenon. You cannot believe otherwise. There is no physiological reason to do so. Absolutely no reason. But you act as though there is. In a world where there is no afterlife for any creature, there is no reason for a thing to lay down its life for another thing, if it does not acquire any physical benefit. (This is not to say that rats believe in heaven when they instinctively fight for the survival of their brood, which they also, at times, themselves devour. This is to say that ultimately, there is no reason for it. No meaning. No purpose for one thing to lay down existence for any other thing.) But you live in a world where you praise the man who lays down his life for others, without regard for his own physical existence. Why? What is praiseworthy? He did what is programmed.

As I said before, you live in a world where your beliefs do not match your actions. Where your actions do not reflect the nature of the universe. Failure to acknowledge this fact will result in insanity. You cannot live and act one way while simultaneously holding contradictory views on how people should act. That's why certain types of insane people laugh so much. They became insane by not being able to cope with not being unified in body and, to you, body. To me, body and soul.

Concerning the dust cloud example: I can see how a dust cloud is very, very complex, physically. How difficult it may be to predict the flight path of each particular particle. But given a powerful enough computer endowed with enough variables, it is possible. The dust particles act in such a way due to their nature, and due to the nature of the wind. These are all predictable.

You say that human choices are predictable. Given enough simplicity, a computer may be able to pick up, in the brain, what color or odor a person is thinking of. But that computer will never be able to tell us what the ultimate source of those synapse firings are. It took men thousands of years to finally come up with computers that are infinitely less complex than the human brain. Does that tell you anything? Like I said, the belief in God, like love, isn't about scientific proof. You just have to believe. That's very plebeian to some. Yet complexity, in itself, explains nothing.

For the atheist, the most "complexity" can do is serve as a truly-believed-in excuse, a faith-based amulet of warding, as it were, to give the mind respite from considering the ultimate source of all the tiny, simple acts that are contained in the whole of any complex action. And why they should exist at all. Certainly, they can exist. But why? Science? Complexity? Do these things exist on their own, for their own sake? The idea of an entity existing by its own power and for its own sake sounds amazingly like the idea of God. So, you choose what you want to worship as your god. Some call science their god. Some call the law their god. Some call themselves their god. Some live in accordance with reality and acknowledge God as God.

-Sans Authoritas

liberranter said...


The DC cop you describe is apparently not an uncommon creature. My wife was part of a civil jury about four years ago in Fairfax County, VA in which a cop (I can't remember the jurisdiction he was assigned to) was attempting to sue a suspect whom he had pursued on suspicion of DUI. The cop claimed that he had "sustained permanent back injuries" while attempting to wrestle the suspect to the ground. It emerged during the trial that this cop (an obese, donut-munching clod, as my wife described him) had attempted this same tactic, apparently unsuccessfully, against four other "suspects" in the previous five years. This only served to further detract from his already unbelievable testimony, so my wife and her peers ultimately ruled for the defendant. She said that the look on not only the cop's face, but the judge's face as well was one for the books. Apparently these two tax-fed parasites believed that they were ENTITLED to some of the poor defendant's money (the man was so destitute that he couldn't even afford an attorney to represent him against the copthug's charges!).

To his credit, the judge did NOT overturn the jury's verdict and render a judgment notwithstanding, but my wife and I were surprised to learn that Virginia law actually allows cops to sue suspects for job-sustained injuries. I don't know how many states allow this, but I consider it one of the more disturbing legal loopholes. Here is another particularly egregious example of armed tax parasites attempting to shake down citizens for more "protection money" using the civil courts as a weapon (fortunately, this suit was ultimately dismissed):

willb said...

Unarmed Bobbies in London no longer
seems to be as ridiculous as it
used to, eh?

Now we're getting the picture.

Say, whatever happened to the
unarmed Bobbies in London?

Anonymous said...

I've said this before and I will keep saying it until it happens. There is an easy way to fix this. Every government worker should have to wear an audio and video recorder while they are working as a matter of law. If there is no A/V record to back up their testimony, the testimony should not be allowed in court. If the worker has demonstrated problem with using the recorder properly, they should be dismissed. This will solve at least 90% of these problems.

WorthNoting said...

This is certainly an interesting tossing about of ideas.
Don't know that having accountants and secretaries trotting about with guns and badges would make me feel more secure but keep those ideas coming . . .
Neil you mentioned:
"I've checked and checked again: the probabilty of the existence of any particular supernatural deity is exceedingly close to zero."
Golly Neil!
Where exactly have you been checking?
Have you tried checking directly with God???
Cause obviously this is something personal between you and God.
So what the heck! Go directly to the source Neil.
I urge you to go to some lovely lofty hilltop, throw your arms up to the sky and scream,
"Hey God! If you exist then prove yourself to me! Of my own free will I now challenge you to remove my doubt! Let your infinite power be used to reveal yourself to me in ways even I cannot miss or explain away!"
Really put some passion into this and let your sincere desire "to know" fill your being.
Afterward, just sit down, kick back and chill for a bit. . . maybe eat an apple or two. Make a brief notation of the day and the time. Then saunter on back home, secure and smug in the fact that since "nothing happened" immediately after you did this, that you were right. :D
Your efforts to instill doubt remind me of the fellow in the movie Chicago who says, "what are ya gonna believe, what you see or what I tell ya?"
Cause the power of God has shown itself - up close and personal - during my life.
So it's not a matter of "belief in things unseen" but rather an acknowledgment of what I KNOW to be true - based on my own experiences.
Yet, to explain those experiences "with words" in such a way that another could "believe" based on those words alone would be futile.
It would be akin to debating the existence of color with a blind man.
If he insists color "is not real" - is he wrong?
If scientists can explain what "causes us" to "perceive" color - are they right?
Who knows. . .
Gotta do your own vision quest Neil. Could be fun. ;)
Re: music and things going to hell in a Honda.
I really enjoy John McCutcheon's work (even though his viewpoint sometimes differs from mine). Anyone that can make me think AND GRIN - as much as he does - is a keeper.
My favorite is: "It's the Economy, Stupid" on his Hail to the Chief CD but check out:
* Let's Pretend
* Our Flag
* Hope Dies Last
* Ashcroft's Army
at this link
Gotta go but I sure do enjoy this blog!

Neil Schipper said...

WorthNoting: "Your efforts to instill doubt remind me of the fellow in the movie.."

Well, your efforts to instill belief remind me of my zeyda!

The analogy to the problem of debating the existence of color with a blind man gets closer to the truth than I think you realize. What we believe has a lot to do with private experience, that is, mental states (and of course these are in turn heavily influenced by the surrounding culture and the power of suggestion).

We require a process of verification and replication in order to tentatively inch closer to a reality outside ourselves, a process that requires a willingness to cull notions that don't meet certain standards.

Of course, life is lived in private mental states, and I appreciate that many people adopt strategies for anxiety reduction and joy induction that seem to work very well for them. But individual proclamations provide a very limited basis for truth claims.


Will, yes, music, guitar playing, frustration, distinctive voices.

One thing to get out the way: when I said "smarty pants", I wasn't referring to the guitar work of SD, but to the smart untouchably cool attitude, their wonky "out" progressions and their precision arrangements. In fact, one of the elements of their work that's most appealing to me is the juxtaposition of these extreme fall-down wild-assed guitar solos with the 15 layers of tightly scripted instrumentation (something Chicago did earlier, but there are limits to the comparison.)

(A slight tangent: there's a site called with scads and scads of mostly live concert recordings, lots from bands of our generation; it has a steely dan practice recording -- lousy audio -- of songs in progress for Katy Lied; in Throw Out Your Gold Teeth, you can hear an early version of the guitar solo; it's actually darn close to the final, dispelling any suspicions I may have had of it being a spontaneous creation -- brilliant solo though -- but there's a golden moment just after the solo, when you hear the other guy (not sure if its Becker or Fagen) REACT to it for what has to be the first time. priceless.)

So... yeah, you talked about frustration at not finding a distinctive voice. Well, first I want to tell you that I am still awed by the people who, due to whatever combination of self-discipline, brains, memory, inspiring or pushy teachers or parents, god-given (yeah, I know.. the culture has habituated me to very convenient idioms) coordination and fine motor control, reached a high level of skill: tons of memorized melodies effortlessly rendered, ease of identifying chords and changes, knowing why chords and scales fit, having lots of full-blown pieces ready for performance at the drop of a hat, and *shudder* sight reading.

I never achieved anything close to that; some of my buddies (and sounds like you) did. My playing is still haphazard and unreliable overall, and I still admire any guy who can find his footing in just about any musical situation, and especially those comfortable with solo performance.

That said, fact is, there's also the dangerous phenomenon of being a guitar nerd, someone who's always putting in the hours to be on top of the game, and especially, hyper-focusing on the nuances of other people's work.

My theory is that it can distract one from other aspects of life's work. We are social animals, and music making is social work. If the facility to attune to people, faulty, hungry and needy as they are, to visit another's perspective, if this wisdom is insufficiently developed, one can become like TV: a polished, calculated attention-hungry entertainment delivery device.

I wanted to tell you more about my own experiences, my relatively recent forays to the stratosphere, but maybe another time. Be well!

Anonymous said...

Back off man!
What has Liberace ever done to you?
May he rest in lavender peace. Don't make me go Castro Street medieval on you!
I'll slap you so hard with my Gucci purse you'll be seein' rainbow coloured stars!
I'm only gonna tell ya once!
Just back off Liberace!

-Sensitive Sid

WorthNoting said...

Neil my apologies.
Upon rereading my post it does seem to have a pro belief slant. Had actually meant for the whole thing to have more of a light-hearted tone.
Attempts to instill belief are pointless.
Doesn't matter to me one way or the other how you spin reality.
You had brought up "checking" though, so . . . I had meant only to suggest a way to do this that wouldn't involve other people's beliefs, doctrines etc which can become tedious.
I don't know what a zeyda is . . .hopefully nothing unpleasant.:D
Was serious about continuing to discuss alternative methods of any "policing" needed in communities though. I hadn't thought of rotating volunteers as a larger part of the local police force before.
Folks lacking experience with weapons and/or crisis situations could easily freeze or respond with too much force which could effect the success of this.
There isn't an acceptable justification for government to command this however.
The idea of incentives in exchange for citizens providing this service is good.
I'd thought of that some as a way to bring medical costs down.

NeilSchipper said...

WorthNoting, zeyda is yiddish for grandfather -- and I meant that in a light-hearted way.

George Vreeland said...

Police are dumb idiots who think they are the law when in fact, they are paid to protect the law.
Cops today can't be trusted.
They lie, steal, cheat, and worse.
Some even kill.
Cops use tasers the wrong way, and they don't seem to care because it makes them feel big.
In reality, cops are small.
Few have an education, and even less are smart.
They bully and bully.
The courts side with cops no matter what, sometimes even in the face of truth against them.
The entire system is a crime.
The people are fed up with it all, and in the end, the system will lose.
So will the police.
I am,

George Vreeland Hill

Qnunc said...

Yep. The State wants to kill us.

Until I started reading the Will Grigg and LRC blogs and Nock's "Our Enemy, the State," I was all for the death penalty for the likes of Bundy, Gacy, et al. I realize now that the State couldn't care less about serial killers -- they are, however, obsessed with murdering pot smokers (google Neutered Gingrich), people who run from the police, and well, everybody else. The preferred method seems to be to "shoot 'em in the back."

Also: there have been over 384 taser murders since 9/11 when WE became the enemy; 2,002 suspects died in police custody during three years, 2003 through 2005; 55 percent of those being "homicide by cop," 32 percent of those being black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent other. That 55% rate is being charitable, since 12% of all these in-custody deaths were ruled "suicides," 7% "accidental injury," 6% "illness or natural causes," and 7% "unknown." Sure.

Check out these two articles about Sam Alito's 1984 memo when he was a Reagan administration lawyer. A 15-page memo supporting the policemen's right to shoot fleeing suspects in the back. To paraphrase his point: "Of course the police can shoot unarmed teenage boys in the back when they are fleeing the police! If not, we are in danger of our entire society breaking down, blah, blah, blah." Thank God the liberals on the Supreme Court disagreed. (TENNESEE v. GARNER, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)) Here's another article supporting shooting in the back: "Senator Coburn Thinks Police Should Shoot Drug Suspects in the Back."

Not to be outdone for drug hypocrisy, check out my own Senator, Richard Shelby, Drug Warrior and White Trailer Trash Extraordinaire, on his views of drugs. (Different rules applied to his drug-smuggling son, of course.)

I imagine also that The State will want to murder home-grown terrorists by the preferred method of back-shooting. This is from the Alabama homeland security training and awareness program. Start here to read about international and domestic terrorists. Three pages are devoted to international terrorists, i.e., Islamic extremists and Islamic extremists; seven pages are devoted to domestic terrorists, which includes let me check oh yeah every American.

In Alabama there are hate groups, anti-government groups, anarchists, separatists, and single issue extremists. Hate groups consist of the ubiquitous KKK (I'm 55 and I saw one once as a teen). Do you believe that gun control equals enslavement? Or that the Constitution has been subverted and the U.S. has lost its sovereignty? Then you are a terrorist. Believe it or not, it only gets worse.

Notice the training course can be found only in the archives. After it made the rounds of the internet and was laughed to scorn, it was pulled. Not changed or revoked, just hidden. Oh those crazy southerners!

But wait. The same course appears almost word for word on Pennsylvania's homeland page. (Start reading here.) "Hate groups" has been replaced by "white supremacists" and "neo-Confederates" were added (Tom DiLorenzo, watch your back!) but other than that, it has the same three pages devoted to Islamo-fascists, and seven pages devoted to Pennsylvanians.

I had found another state (Nevada?) which is also word for word the same. Although other states have pulled theirs, probably thanks to the much-deserved scorn and derision heaped on Alabama's page, but I've seen hints that they are also word for word, which means this madness was not written by the States, but came straight from D.C. Check your own state, but prepare yourself. You WILL be angry.

Will, you said sometimes you were mistaken for Marco Rivera, who is some football player I suppose, and since I'm a girl, I mean football. Yuck. On YouTube you look sort of like Carlos of Desperate Housewives who is everybody's favorite, so please change your picture. It just doesn't do you justice. Was that you singing or were you in the background? Cool video, football or not.

Qnunc said...

By the way, here is a Yahoo search on "police shoot fleeing suspect."

Anonymous said...

Gilberto Blanco met the worst fate in his first encounter with the police. Lacking a criminal record of any sort, or a history of prior violence, Gilberto's transgression was swinging a folding chair at a police officer. The female officer felt dutybound to protect the windshield of a minivan, that the down on his luck Mexican immigrant was attacking. At 46, Gilberto was working pick up jobs, unmarried and childless, living in one half of a rented room that was less than fifty square feet, six thousand miles away from his home, and pathetically lonely. The officer could have backed down, or she could have tried to use lesser means of force, if the windshield was that important to her. Perhaps she was not comfortable using lesser means of force, since she was three inches shorter than Gilberto. But her pride more than made up for her stature, since she refused to budge as Gilberto ran accross the lot at her armed with the deadly folding chair. The officer is now on desk duty. She put an end to the threat to her physical well being with a single shot that pierced Gilberto's heart.

Anonymous said...

Gilberto broke the rules. The penalty for breaking the rules is death.

Rules exist for the sake of rules, not for the sake of the things they are intended to protect, and they certainly do not exist for the sake of benefiting every individual. Again, rules exist for their own sake. The only entity that exists for its own sake is God.

The moral of the story is: worship the State and its rules.

-Sans Authoritas

dusty said...

Will I don,t usually comment in bloggs but your article's are quite interesting. First of all I have to say to the people who read these bloggs NO-ONE and I mean NO-ONE has authority over you. When you came to this planet you gave NO-ONE power over you I don,t care what badge,uniform,I.D. or status that person has. The way I have learned to balance the rules here are if a law does not fit into the confines of the Constitution it is a void law no matter what individual created it if this void law is enforced it becomes a criminal act and everyone has the authority to resist a criminal act. Any law enforcement officer who enforces a criminal act has stepped over the line and deserves no respect when the people get it through there thick skulls that there rights are being removed by corrupt politicians we will continue to slide down this slope right into the pit created for us. So people get rid of the fear,guilt,the what will people say mentality and begin to exert your rights remember a right is not a privilege and can-not be removed by anyone no matter who they are NO-ONE has authority over you.The founding fathers gave us the way and the means to regain these stolen rights its time we began to use them it would make them proud and let them know they did not suffer in vain.

Anonymous said...

Dusty, the Founding Fathers gave us a piece of paper that sits there and moulders. God gave us His law, freedom, and rights. These things are inherent to our human nature, and not are not dependent or based upon any document written by men.

My laws aren't written on a piece of paper. They're written on our hearts. God's law is my only law. If it doesn't fit into the confines of God's law, it's not a law. The Constitution? The Bill of Rights? Nobly intended, doubtless, but still splashes of ink on paper. True ideas that are converted to action by the human intellect and heart are what protect our rights, which are based upon our human nature, which was endowed by God!

-Sans Authoritas

-Sans Authoritas

Anonymous said...

In addition, let me state very clearly: no right can be "stolen," "taken" or "destroyed." A right can only be infringed. If you take a hundred dollars from me at gunpoint, you have not destroyed my right to my money. You have only denied my right and infringed it.

We cannot afford to be sloppy with definitions. As a very young child once said, with more truth and candor than I have heard from more adults, "Words mean stuff."

-Sans Authoritas

dusty said...

Anonymous I am not here to quibble with you about where rights come from I am trying to state to the people that the rights exist and its time we implemented them where ever they come from. Now we can sit here all day discussing proper structure or we can implement what is at our access if we were more concerned about rogue agents and renegade officers clubbing us about the neck and head and a little less on story structure we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now sure words mean a lot but action means more lets put these words into action there called self-Defence the time to use them is at hand

Anonymous said...

Dusty, my point is that the Constitution is meaningless if your rights are derived from and protected by this piece of parchment. According to the original intent of the Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms was enumerated and acknowledged (not granted) precisely to defend against such animals. Yet the State co-workers of these thugs, the Courts and lawyers, do what they do: defend their existence and that of their co-workers by twisting around words on a piece of paper, and consider themselves very important indeed for having done so. Truth be damned, as long as they have power and some words can be twisted to suit their fancy.

Anyone can twist words on a piece of paper. Nobody can twist the truth itself. The latter is what we need to embrace.

Lastly, I think any action that a badgethug performs, if it cannot be done morally by any other person is an immoral act. That includes stopping you for having a tail light out, backed up by violence if you dare ignore him. That includes stopping and cuffing you for not carrying a state-issued permission slip to carry a firearm for your own protection. That includes roadblock checkpoints where everyone is stopped. In other words, if you or I can't do it morally, neither can a badgethug. In fact, badgethugs have no right to make a living at a trough filled with money and property taken by force or the threat thereof.

The State is itself an abuse, as Edmund Burke said.

The only thing violence can be used for is defense: defense from a physical attack upon one's person or property. And even then, the amount of violence you may use depends upon how grave the threat is. No one, badgethug or not, can ever initiate violence.

You and I and the badgethug, in a true, normal, society (which is always comprised of voluntary, mutually beneficial interactions: anything else is a parody and abuse of society) all have the same authority. Authority is either given directly by God, (e.g., parent over the child, priest over the faithful,) or it is given voluntarily by one person to another (e.g., the employer over the employee.) A parent may discipline his child, as the will of the child is in the custody of the parent until he is emancipated, but among adults, force may only be used to defend oneself or another: not to "teach someone a lesson."

Badgethugs only have more power, and they call that power "authority." Power and authority are not the same thing.

-Sans Authoritas